PSALM 1 TALK
(THE SECRET OF TRUE HAPPINESS)
(This being the first Psalm in the book of Psalms gives us the formula for finding God’s blessedness or real deep happiness the New Testament calls God’s peace. It sets down a great theme of the book of Psalms namely the two ways we can go in life. We can go God’s way that leads to eternal blessedness or our own way or man’s way that leads to eternal destruction.)
(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.
If you asked anyone what they would like to have most in life they would probably say good health and happiness. However, happiness without God is so often tied to money and wealth but as we will see from this bible study real happiness is not found there. Being blessed by God is what real happiness is all about and it means that a Christian can know real happiness despite the circumstances they find themselves in. In Philippians 4 verse 7 Paul speaks of“the peace of God” transcending all understanding and keeping our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Christians are more than happy, God blesses them with his deep and abiding peace.
A life lived without God is so useless and unhappy it is compared, in this Psalm to chaff (the useless refuse of a threshing floor). The true person of God is seen as a strong and fruitful tree planted by the water.
Psalm 1 and 2 are a kind of introduction to the book of Psalms. Psalm 1 introduces the theme of how to live a Godly life rooted and grounded in the word of God. While Psalm 2 introduces us to the theme of how we can become a Godly person and if we do we will face opposition from those who continue to oppose God. Or putting it another way how we live a blessed life in God and how we get into relationship with God and how that can lead to opposition and even persecution but God is with us giving us victory over our many enemies. All of the Psalms relate to these two great themes.
In this study we will look at :
- (vs. 1) WHAT A BLESSED LIFE IS
- (2 – 3) HOW WE LIIVE A BLESSED LIFE AND WHAT IT LEADS TO
- (vs. 2)How we live a blessed life
- (vs. 3) What the blessed life leads to
3 WHAT A WICKED LIFE IS AND WHAT IT LEADS TO (4 – 6)
- (vs. 1) WHAT A BLESSED LIFE IS
Being Blessed by God or being truly happy is what all people really want but true happiness seems to be such a fickle thing. Many people buy lottery tickets to win large cash jackpots and think that if only they could win millions of dollars, then they would really be happy. The reality is that many who win big lotteries often find very little happiness at all. Relatives, friends and con men trying to get a piece of the prize hound them. They buy houses, boats and go on expensive holidays but still, in side themselves they aren’t happy.
Others people go deeply religious to find spiritual happiness and do all kinds of religious activities. Martin Luther before he found Christ and the great liberating truth of Justification by faith, crawled up the steps of St Peters in Rome, praying as he crawled and when he got o the top said, he felt more of a sinner after doing the crawl than before he started it.
Yes the bible makes it clear, to be truly blessed by God or be truly spiritually happy you need to find his forgiveness first, Psalm 32 verses 1 and 2 says :
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit”.
How do we find God’s forgiveness ?
It is only found through faith in Jesus Christ and his great death for us as Paul says in Romans 5 verses 1 to 5 :
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And werejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Psalm 1 states clearly that we can only find real and true happiness in knowing and following God. It says that only those who “delight in God’s law” (word) and “meditate on it day and night are the ones truly blessed by God.
- (2 – 3) HOW WE LIIVE A BLESSED LIFE AND WHAT IT LEADS TO
- (vs. 2) How we live the blessed life
The Psalmist presents the basis of happiness in negative terms verse 1 and then in positive terms verse 2.
- The Godly Life in Negative Terms
Living for God by faith involves not doing three things
- Not Walking in the counsel of the wicked.
This simply means not living as non-believers live, trusting in material things or anything else other than God for our source of our happiness. My Dad, who was not a believer often, used the expression, “When my boat comes in everything will be great”. I always wondered as a young child, “what is this boat”?
Of course, my dad meant when he got a lot of money, somehow, he and us (my family) would be happy but the boat never came in and even if it did real happiness would not come with it.
If we walk the way none believers we are starting to live like them seeking to find true happiness in something or someone other than God and that is a very dangerous path to take as we will see by the end of this Psalm.
- Not Standing in the way of sinners
To stand with someone is to stop walking the way God is leading us and join with the way non-believers are going or living. To stand with someone or some course is to identify with it. It is when we stop reading God’s word and join with non- believers in what they are doing that we turn from the real source of true happiness.
When I was a young teenager and first went to work at the tender age of 16 I came in contact with other young men who had no knowledge of God and his word and as a young Christian I did not realize that hanging out with them and joining with their Godless ideas and attitudes would badly effect my being blessed by God.
It took three years of wandering away from God for me to realize how much I had lost by walking with other young men who did not love God and then because I walked with them I started to stand with them or take on their views of life. I quickly lost God’s blessing of happiness in my life.
- Not Sitting in the seat of mockers
Now we take one final step in our slide from God and his happiness. We switch sides and sit down with (this could mean join forces with) those who oppose God. I did this, to my shame as I said in my mid teenage years. I started hanging around non -believers at first as well as my real Christian friends. I then started to spend more time with these new non- believer friends and finally within a year I had given away God and Church I belonged to. At 19 I became the most miserable person, who got drunk, smoked, swore and tried to argue against the existence of God. God’s real happiness was lost. But praise be to God he led me back to my “first love” after I became deeply hurt, when my so-called fiends, dumped me. At 20 years of age I stopped Walking, standing and sitting with sinners and with the help and encouragement of real godly friends experienced God’s real happiness again.
- The Godly Life I Positive Terms
If there are things we shouldn’t do equally there are things we should do if we want to continually experience God’s true happiness in our lives. Verse 2 tells us two things we should do:
- Delight in the Law of the Lord
To delight in something is to really get into it and enjoy it. When I did come back to God and his church I was greatly helped by the assistant minister of the Church I attended this man’s bible study group. He was a loving man of God who loved to get young people together to study God’s word. Oh the joy and happiness I started to experience in those small group bible studies that minster faithfully led.
Do you read God’s word ?
Do you join with others, regularly to study it?
If you do, then you are delighting in the law of the Lord.
- Meditate on it Day and Night
The Psalmist takes this first positive step further, it is not just a matter of reading and studying God’s word, we must Mediate on it. One commentator, named, Leopold, describes mediating in these terms of,
“A healthy interest in it and its real content, which continually influence and affect the man devoted to this holy treasure”.
James says in James 2: 22 25
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural facen a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does”.
Recently I discovered a new fact about this word meditate. In the book “Interpreting the Psalms” – “Issues and Approaches”, Michael LeFebvre, points out that
“the Hebrew word for Meditate, “hagah”, refers to singing three out of ten times in the Psalms”.
This is not surprising because in ancient Hebrew times there were no books and the large scrolls that contained the “Torah”, first five books of the bible were only found in the Temple and special places of learning. This means that people in those times had to have the bible memorized and one of the best ways of memorizing scripture is to sing it.
So the Psalms became a way of the ordinary people of Israel to memorize and learn the law of God. Maybe we should include learning our bibles by using music and singing so we can include this in our deeper meditation of God’s word to us.
2. (vs. 3) What the Godly life leads to
This brings us to the beautiful picture of this Psalm, the blessed man being like a tree and not just any tree but a tree planted by a stream of water.
Many years ago when I first left Bible College I worked in full time Church youth ministry and one day I was invited to speak to group of young teenagers on a hike through a forest area (we call in Australia “The Bush”). I wondered what I could talk about at the lunch break on a hike in the bush. I had a look at the map of the area we were walking through and noticed that for most of the way we would be following a small stream. I remembered this Psalm and the concept of the tree growing by the water.
We did stop along side of a creek and the trees there were magnificent, tall and straight with lots of branches. I pointed out to the teenagers the trees not near the stream and they were not as impressive. I asked them why the trees planted by the creek were not doing as well?
The answer was of course the trees by the creek had lots of water to nourish them. I then pointed out that that’s the picture of the true Godly person who draws on the spiritual nourishment of The Word of God, the bible.
Like the tree they yield fruit and I think this is the fruit of God’s spirit, spoken of in Galatians 5 which leads to Good works and of course God’s blessings. The concept of the Godly person being like a tree is also in Psalm 92:12,13 and Isaiah 44 verse 4.
- (vs. 4 – 6)WHAT A WICKED LIFE IS AND WHAT IT LEADS TO
The Psalmist now speaks of the wicked or ungodly people. You might think he will refer to them as those trees not planted by the stream or maybe they are more like a dried- up shrub planted in the desert.
No, they don’t even make it to a dried- up shrub they are simply described as “chaff”, the totally useless refuse of a threshing floor that is ever blown away by the wind or piled up and burned. This is a terrible picture of not only uselessness but futility.
Lives spent without God and his word are indeed “Chaff”. This image of the ungodly is found in a number of places in the Old Testament. Have a look at what Hosea has to say about the ungodly when he describes them as “Chaff” and a number of other devastating images Hosea 14: 3
“Therefore, they will be like themorning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, Likechaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.
If that’s not enough to put you off ungodliness, life without knowing and experiencing God and his blessings, then read what ungodly living leads to in verse 5,
“They will not stand in Judgment”
This is a gentle way of saying, they will go down big time when they die and face God in judgment. The “Chaff or the ungodly going down big time is given even more frightening images by John the Baptist in Matthew 3 verse 12,
“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire”.
The last verse of the Psalm reminds me of the famous folk singer become rock stars, Bob Dylan’s Gospel song “Serve Someone” and the words of the song that read,
“May be the devil or it may be the Lord b you’re gonna have to serve somebody”,
According verse 6 there is only two ways to live, the way of God and he watches over those going that way and blesses them and the way of the wicked or ungodly and those the Psalmist simply says, will perish.
THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 1.
In my study of the first 30 Psalms of the bible I found each one led me to a number of issues in the New Testament that both made the Psalm make more sense and gave me a deeper appreciation of what I believe God is teaching us through the Psalm with knowledge of His Son and his message the Good News of our salvation.
This Psalm led me to three New Testament applications:
- THE FULL LIFE OF THE PERSON WHO IS FOLLOWING CHRIST
The central picture of “The tree planted by the water that flourishes” made me think of the full and fruitful life Jesus promises those who truly believe and follow him. For instance John 10 verse 10 that reads.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”.
Here Jesus promises not just life for those who put their trust in him but life to the full.
Jesus according to John 1 verse 14 is, “The word become flesh” and so it is not strange for us to read in John, 8: 31,32,
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.
Jesus word and actions formed the basis for what we call the New Testament so to be that tree that flourishes by the word of God, we must be those who read Christ word and seek to act upon it.
- JESUS FORMULA FOR BLESSEDNESS (TRUE HAPPINESS)
In the sermon on the mount Jesus spells out clearly his formula for “Blessedness” or “True Happiness”. Let me read to you Matthew 5 : 3 – 12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because ofrighteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same waythey persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
What a incredible formula Jesus offers here. Let’s have a closer look at Jesus formula. I call it The 8 Characteristics of a blessed / truly happy person:
8 CHARACTERISTICS OF A BLESSED / TRULY HAPPY PERSON
1. “Poor in Spirit“ – Must have spiritual awareness
People who are full of themselves and their own importance will never turn from themselves and accept Jesus as their Lord. To come into Jesus Kingdom or family and enjoy the benefits, blessings or happiness that brings they must first become spiritually poor, they need God in their life or better still they need to want God in their lives.
This involves spiritual awareness that only comes when a person realizes they can do nothing to save themselves, they are spiritually poor and sick and in need of a heavenly benefactor or doctor, who is Jesus Christ.
2. “ Mourn” – Must have agony of the soul to have spiritual awareness
To do what I just said, come to a realization that we are spiritually poor and are in need of a spiritual doctor to deal with our sinfulness, requires us to come to the realisation that we need help.
This realization is not pleasant it will create an agony in our soul, a kind of spiritual mourning that will drive us to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
It was the attitude of the religious leaders of Jesus day who best illustrate how self-righteousness reveals itself even in people who call themselves Godly. Jesus said he did not come to save people with this kind of attitude but he came to save those who, deep down needed a doctor, or who realize they were sinners. Once we morn for our sinfulness then Jesus can save us and in doing so give us true and real happiness or blessedness.
3. “Meek” – Turn from self and seek God
This is what becoming a Christian starts with a turning away from “doing our thing” to want to do “God’s thing”. It requires us to be humbled and become meek and then we can seek God through Jesus and find in doing so real happiness.
4. “Hunger and thirst for righteousness”– A person after God’s own heart
People, who have turned from following their own way, go from being spiritual dead in their sins to becoming hungry and thirsty for righteousness. This turns them from being worldly to a person who is more like God designed us to be, after his own heart.
5. “Merciful”– God is a God of Love and that love is Grace
We are not saved through anything we do or contribute. Isaiah 64: 6 says,
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”.
This means even the good we do is effected by sin and cannot be used to save us. Which means we are only saved because God acted in mercy and grace and did what we cannot do for ourselves. If we are people only saved by mercy then Jesus is saying we must be people who show mercy and grace.
6. “Pure in Heart”– Clean or good on the inside
Another way we show that we have been saved by the grace of God is that we begin to clean up our act on the inside. We begin to develop a pure heart but this must also show on the outside as well in good works for God.
7. “Peacemakers”– Real Peace
Real peace only found when man makes his peace with God and the only way that can happen is through trusting and believing in Jesus and in what he has done for us through the cross.
The Angels at Jesus birth announced it by declaring,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”, Luke 2: 14.
Those Angels looked forward to the day when this baby Jesus would grow up to become a man and through his death make a way for all people to find peace with God.
For some because of what Jesus did for them on the cross the struggle against God would be over. Just as Christians show mercy and grace because they know mercy and grace from God so they should demonstrate peace in their dealings with others.
Many of the great peacemakers of history have been Christians inspired to be so owing to the peace they have found in God through Christ.
8. “Persecuted”– Willing to stand for God and what he is about
Of course, not everyone will accept the Salvation offered through Christ and this will
mean that Christians will find themselves out of step with those who refuse to believe in God.
This can lead to persecution and Jesus said to his disciple on the night before he was taken away to be crucified,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” John 15 : 18-19.
How could we see true happiness or Blessedness in persecution?
Well Christians of course have real happiness that transcends their circumstances of
their lives and many examples of Christians experiencing this transcended happiness
as they were being persecuted could be told. But I will tell you just one. In Acts 7 54 –
56, we read of the death of Stephen as he was being killed for staying true to Jesus and of how he saw a wonderful vision of heaven just before his death at the hands of Sail, later Paul and a group of hostile to Christian Jewish religious leaders,
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
What a incredible formula Jesus offers here but how can we possible be the kind of person stated in this formula? This leads to my final New Testament insight.
3. JESUS TELLS US HOW WE CAN FIND THIS BLESSED LIFE STYLE
The answer comes in the next chapter of Matthew in verses 19, 20 and 33. I will simply just let Jesus word speak to you without comment from me.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And verse 33,
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.
How can you be assured that we will always stay true to God and his word and experience his blessedness or “true happiness”?
This is the question I think we should all ask ourselves every day of our lives. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5 verse 8 that
“The devil is a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour”
And we are to resist him, Peter tells us.
So we must be on our guard constantly but the real source of power and nourishment is in the word of God and I quote Jesus words again in John 8: 31, 32 ,
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”
We will know the truth and that truth will nourish us like a tree planted by streams of living water.
Let me now share with you my poem that comes out of all I have been saying:
(Based on Psalm 1)
Stands majestic by the waters edge.
It produces fruit in season
And offers shelter all year round.
I want to be like that tree.
Leftovers from a crop long since gone.
It’s blown about and trodden upon.
Death is where it’s bound.
Never useful to anyone,
A cast off buried in the ground.
Walk in the ways of good advice,
Not led in the ways of foolish men,
Not sitting with those who don’t understand.
But walking with those whose faith is real
Who know the Lord and his plan.
Delight in the words of God above,
Turning from the words of fools.
Who are falling when they think they stand.
I must have thoughts centered in him,
Who through his death held out his hand.
Stands majestic by the waters edge
It is strong, secure and free.
We can be that tree who is never lost
Whose end is not just powdery dust
But who forever in God do trust.
By: Jim Wenman
Lord I know that real peace and happiness is only found in trusting and believing in you. Help me to always serve you and others and in doing so bring glory to your great name. Thank you for Jesus who won for me on the Cross forgiveness of my many sins and a new relationship with you. Help me now to live for you and show others how they to can find the secret of true happiness. In Jesus name I pray this Amen.